Hundreds turned out in front of parliament yesterday to demand the government take action now and welcome more Syrian refugees to Iceland.
Yesterday’s demonstration was one of many held around the world, RÚV reports, as those gathered demanded the government respond to the growing need for Europeans to respond to the crisis Syrian refugees are facing.
Attendees chanted “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here”, in English, and speeches were held on the subject of the crisis and how Iceland should respond. The speakers who presided were Sigríður Víðis Jónsdóttir, a spokesperson for UNICEF and the author of the book Ríkisfang: Ekkert (Nationality: None); Steinunn Arnþrúður Björnsdóttir, a minister of Hallakirkja church in Kópavogur; and Jovana Pavlović, a political science student who came to Iceland in 1999 as a refugee fleeing the Balkans War.
Numerous Icelanders RÚV spoke with expressed their sympathy with the hardships Syrian refugees are facing and the desire to help.
Jovana, who came to Iceland as a refugee with her parents some 16 years ago when she was only six years old, was candid about the refugee experience.
“When you’re fighting for your life, and the fear of whether or not you will survive is naturally indescribable, you never forget it,” she told reporters. “This is of course what [the refugees] are doing, fighting for their lives, fleeing war and bombs. They’re actually the only ones who understand what that’s like. No one else does.”
As reported, 25 municipalities in Iceland said they are ready to accept refugees, and over 1,000 Icelanders have volunteered to help the Icelandic Red Cross in the effort. A parliamentary proposal has also been submitted calling for 500 Syrian refugees to be brought to Iceland, and the proposal has broad multipartisan support. Despite this, Minister of Welfare Eygló Harðardóttir told Vísir it could take “days or weeks” to make a final decision.